Word of the Day - steps
We're at that in-between place in our family story, where the little ones are outgrowing the toddle stage and are actually running, and the teeny one is just barely trying rice cereal so it will be a while before she takes her first steps. I am afraid too many of us take for granted the ability to take steps. I say this from experience. When Guillain Barre came crushing into me six years ago, pressing me into my bed and paralyzing my limbs as it stripped the myelin sheaths from the long thin nerve strands of my body, I learned to appreciate walking. Even still, after the blessed power of healing set me upright once again, I have super zingy nerves in my feet to remind me every time I take a step. Any little touch or motion and my feet feel like your arm does when you hit your crazy bone. I've gotten pretty used to it now, but I wonder sometimes what it would feel like to be unaware of your legs. Every time I think that, I picture my friend Joan, who has no legs, and I am grateful for the pain. "What Joan wouldn't give, " I say to myself, "to have legs that hurt." I do deal with a leftover fear of stairs though. I'm not sure if this doesn't have more to do with the nightmares I have had about falling down stairs as my entrance to the Pearly Gates, or if it has to do with the balance and timing issues associated with peripheral nerve damage. Anyway, I avoid steps as much as I can, though if there are two handrails and I have nothing in my arms I can handle them fine.
Steps, in general, have become just a good place to take pictures. Think in your mind of the various steps upon which you have stood for your family photos. We have a cherished snapshot of our clan on the steps of Presinden Hinckley's office building. We had been invited to come sing him a song I had written called Stand a Little Taller. He was so warm and gracious to us that day you can see it in our faces there on his steps. More recently we are at the state Courthouse when Dave faced the Senate, receiving their approval to become the next state court judge. The cold marble of those steps echoed our whispers of celebration as we huddled together before the cameras. Eight years ago yesterday John stood in his tuxedo and Ashley in her satin gown on the steps of the Salt Lake Temple. We who love them gathered around them, clear up to the massive temple doors, looking out while Sophie, Parker and Ruby peeked in from their heaven place, the way my sisters and I used to peek through the banisters at the grown ups having a party down in the living room. We have cherished portraits on the steps of various temples, with missionaries and brides and grooms standing in the center. Next week Annie will stand on the steps of the Huntsman Center wearing a cap and gown, velvet stripes of her Masters Degree wrapped around her arms. We have photos of babies in long white blessing gowns on the front steps of our home, and first day of school snapshots on the front stoop.
On the bead board wall at the side of my fridge there are two sentimental items hanging. One is a needlework piece my sister Sue made as a housewarming gift. When we moved from the old house to this current one she "stole" from our fridge a hand scribbled list of Family Rules we had made for Home Evening one night. There were three rules. Here's what it says:
NO FIGHTING: It makes us ugly and unhappy
NO TV UNTIL HOMEWORK IS DONE
WORK HARD THEN PLAY HARD: There is no excuse for boredom
Above that is an old oval frame with a photo of my Grandmother Lizzie. She is standing on the steps of a courthouse, somewhere in Idaho, probably Pocatello. She is holding a pair of spoons in position atop a metal pot. She is surrounded by other women bearing similar items of domestic musicianship: one holds a washboard; another has a frypan made into a banjo; one has a griddle with various items of percussion dangling from it, like a triangle and a measuring cup, a ladle and an ice pick; one has what appears to be a wash basin plunger, another holds the basin. They all have pointy white hats with the letters B.G. appliqued and banners across their chests that say BLACKFOOT GRANGE.
I never knew my Grandmother Lizzie Parrish. She died when my own mother was just 14 years old. But I can tell a bit about her from this black and white photograph hanging in my kitchen. Though she appears rather sober in expression, I hear laughter in the fact that she was willing to walk among her friends, the other wives of Blackfoot farmers, banging a pot in a KITCHEN BAND in a hometown parade. I imagine them stitching their uniforms, making their instruments, rehearsing their numbers. It makes the corners of my lips turn heavenward as she speaks to me from the grave. I feel her looking at me as I sling my guitar strap over my shoulder. "Don't forget, little one," she whispers, "Don't forget that the best music you make is here in your kitchen." I am told she had a lovely, angelic voice. She used it from the pulpit in church meetings, to soothe crying babies and troubled hearts on Sunday mornings. Still, the photo I have of her is in her Kitchen Band, standing on some steps with her friends, pounding on a pot. She reminds me to be real. Sometimes I wink at her when I walk by.
"Thanks, Gramma Lizzie" I think to myself, and I imagine her nodding to me from her heaven place, up there between the rungs of the banister as she looks down on me.